Husband-and-wife duo, and co-owners/operators of the longstanding La Grotta Ristorante Italiano, Kristy-Jones Favalli and Christian Favalli will launch their new restaurant, Saltyard, this weekend at 1820 Peachtree Road in Brookwood Hills. We caught up with Kristy to get the scoop on the new European-inspired eatery, set to open this Saturday, June 1.
You and Christian have been the restaurateurs behind La Grotta for years, but you mentioned that you had difficulty finding places to dine out together that offered all your favorite dishes in one place. When did you have that aha! moment, when you realized the solution was to create that restaurant yourself?
I remember that moment precisely: We were winding down our meal (and second bottle of wine) at Bar Crudo in San Francisco and although we were "stuffed," we would eventually muster up the spare room to head over to Flour + Water for a plate of pasta, or A16 for our favorite flat bread, just so that we could pack all of our favorite dishes into one trip.
You mentioned that you were inspired by the European dining tradition of sharable small plates. Will a visit to Saltyard feel a bit like a vacation abroad?
We certainly hope so considering that's where we'll be spending every spare moment! The aspect of this type of dining that we love the most is the social nature of it; after our pop-up dinners, strangers became friends, and had plans to go to each other's houses for dinner the next night. I absolutely love bringing people together in this manner, and I certainly hope to accomplish this at Saltyard.
This manner of dining is somewhat encapsulated in the restaurant name, as well. Can you tell us a little about why you chose it?
We researched the origins of salt, which was historically an extremely expensive commodity. If you shared salt with your house guests over dinner, it was truly a friendly gesture and a sign of hospitality. This is our philosophy: We want to know every guest that comes through the door; their likes, dislikes, their dogs' names. In keeping with our choice to source locally whenever possible, we decided on Saltyard. It's strong and stands for something, and we like that!
His food is, of course, fantastic, and he shares our same philosophies about how the restaurant should be run; he is not an arrogant chef who is offended if your preference is to jazz up a dish by adding a dash of salt or pepper at the table. He is not so set in his ways that he will not make you a half portion of pasta. If it makes sense, we will make it happen at Saltyard.
If you had to pick three of Leahy's dishes that we must not leave without trying, what would they be?
Duck Confit over beluga lentils
Grilled asparagus with scallion poached farm egg, and lemon
Blistered green beans, bacon, ginger, cider reduction
You chose to open in the Brookwood next door to Watershed on Peachtree. How did you decide on the neighborhood/location?
What's not to love? The surrounding neighborhoods have embraced us with open arms and we could not be more thrilled with their support. Independently owned restaurants are flocking into Buckhead right now because there is a demand for it; people want to support local, chef-driven restaurants, and while these have been affluent in Midtown for a while, Buckhead hasn't historically had a vast selection.
Square Feet Studio created the design, which I know includes a 45-seat patio - perfect for Atlanta summers. What are your favorite parts about the look they conceived for the restaurant?
We wanted a space that was functional and beautiful and they really hit the nail on the head. The overall aesthetic is so comfortable and it has a nice energy to it. Some of my favorite features are the sun-bleached reclaimed beams from an old tobacco barn and our The Urban Electric Co. pendants hanging over the bar (which are handmade in Charleston) that [designer] Vivian [Bencich] insisted on having. The draperies from go-to gal Amy Hunley at Drape 98 bring in a nice touch of sophistication to tie everything together.
I know one of your biggest concerns for Saltyard was dampening noise levels; lately, trendy Atlanta restaurants have tended to be intentionally noisy. How will the dining ambience of Saltyard be different?
It's real. It's a place where you can see and be seen OR hear and be heard. We want to hear killer music and guests laughing and having a good time, not shouting over all the other background noise. We were insistent on this from day one, and it's been achieved with flying colors.
Are there any special drinks or menu items we should be sure to order on opening night this Saturday?
Well, we unfortunately will not have our liquor license for the first week or so, but [once we do], everyone in Atlanta should bombard Saltyard to order a "Step in the Right Direction" with Hendricks Gin, cucumber, St. Germain, mint, simple syrup and lime, which we have dubbed the "Patio Pounder." ... Or, if you're looking for something a little spicier, our bartender, Mike May, offers a "Swift Kick in the Tito" (with Tito's vodka, fresh jalapeño and basil, simple syrup and lime).
The only thing getting me to ClusterFuckhead is Umi.
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